Sword Art Online:Volume 8 Chapter 1 Part 10
"They, they're still alive, that means...!?"
Asuna was shocked as she cried out, and I slowly nodded my head.
"Un, they're still alive. Both Yolko-san and Kains-shi."
"Bu, but then...but."
Asuna continued to pant a few times and clasp the hands at her knees together before arguing back with a hoarse tone.
"But...didn't we see it yesterday. Kains-san's...death when he was pierced by the black spear and left to hang at the window."
I shake my head violently.
"What we saw was Kains-shi's avatar and lots of polygons scattered all over the place to make it look like he disappeared from the scene.
"So, so that means, this isn't 'death' in this world?"
"...Do you still remember? Yesterday, Kains-shi, who was dangling at the window of the church was always staring at a spot in the sky."
I point my right index finger in front of me and said. Asuna nodded her head slightly.
"That's the HP bar, right? He was looking at the continuous pierce damage whittle down his HP bit by bit..."
"That's what I thought, too, but this wasn't the case. He wasn't looking at the HP bar, but the durability of the full-plate armor he was equipped with."
"Un, this morning, when I was experimenting with the continuous pierce damage inside the area, didn't I take off the glove on my left hand? Inside the area, the HP won't drop no matter what the player does, but the durability will drop...it's like the sand baguettes we just ate. Of course, the durability of equipment won't drop naturally like food, but that's if they're not damaged. Listen up. That time, when Kains' armor was pierced through, what the spear wore out wasn't his HP, but the durability of the armor."
On hearing this, Asuna, who had been frowning till now, widened her eyes.
"The, then...it was Kains-san's armor that shattered..."
"That's right. It's the armor he was wearing. I already felt that it was weird why he wore such thick armor even though they were just having a meal...that was worn to make him look obvious when he exploded into polygons. The moment the armor was destroyed, Kains-shi..."
"Use the crystal to teleport away."
Asuna closed her eyes to recall that image in her mind, and said.
"...This resulted in a 'phenomenon where a blue light is given as polygons are shattered and scattered, indicating that the player died'...in other words, it looks like a death effect, but in fact, it was completely different."
"Un, Kains-shi probably took the spear outside the area and stabbed it into him with the armor, used the teleport crystal to move back to the second level of the church, hang himself with the rope and wait till the armor's about to be destroyed before jumping off and teleporting away while the armor was wrecked...something like that..."
Asuna nodded slowly yet forcefully, closed her eyes and heaved out a few words.
"...Then, Yolko-san's 'disappearance' is the same trick, too...right......so they're still alive..."
Asuna never let out her voice as she merely moved her lips, muttering 'thank goodness', but again bit her lips.
"Bu, but, she was definitely wearing thick armor, but when did the throwing dagger stab her? If it is inside the area, it should probably be blocked by the code, and it would be impossible for it to hit her.
"It was already on her right from the beginning."
I immediately answered.
"Think about it carefully. When Schmitt, you and I entered the room, she never let us see her back. On receiving our message that we were going to visit her, she first ran outside to stab the dagger into her back before returning to the inn. With that hairstyle of hers, if she just sat down properly on the sofa, she would be able to hide the very small dagger handle completely, take note of the durability of the clothing, talk to us, see that the timing was about there, retreat to the window, use the foot to kick the wall or something to create a sound, turn her back against us, and make it look like the dagger was stabbed into her at that moment."
"So she fell out of the window...to prevent us from hearing the command of the transfer...in that case, that black robe you had chased after, Kirito-kun, that was..."
"There's a very likely chance that it wasn't Grimlock, but Kains."
I made this conclusion, and Asuna looked up at the sky before heaving a short sigh.
She frowned as she moved towards me.
"Didn't we head to the Black Iron Palace yesterday to check the «Monument of Life»? Kains-san's death was clearly crossed out, the time of death was the same, and the cause of death was also 'Continuous Pierce Damage'."
"Do you remember the spelling of that Kains-san?"
"Erm...I remember it was K, a, i, n, s, like that."
"Un, Yolko-san told that to us and we naturally believed it. But...look at this."
I handed the parchment that became the clue to solving this case over to Asuna. Several hours ago, Schmitt wrote down the list of members of «Golden Apple». Asuna reached out to take it, looked at the parchment for a bit and shouted out "EHHH!!?"
"«Caynz»....!? Is this the way Caynz-san's name was written!?"
"It would be understandable if it was just one character, but if 3 characters were wrong, it probably isn't Schmitt's memory at fault, but Yolko-san gave us the wrong spelling. She started with K to log Kains-san's death and mistake him for Caynz-san, who starts with C."
"Eh...that, that means..."
Asuna's expression stiffened, and her tone hush down.
"At that time...we witnessed C Caynz-san's fake death, and that K Kains-san died under the continuous piercing damage at some place in Aincrad? It's probably...not a coincidence, is it...? Don't tell me..."
I smiled slightly and waved my right hand hard.
"It wasn't that Yolko was the accomplice and killed K at that moment. Listen up. The death records on the Monument of Life indicated that it was the 'Month of Sakura, day 22, 18:27'...and in Aincrad. It was the second time that the month of Sakura, 22nd April happened."
Asuna couldn't say anything at that moment, and could only give a weak smile.
"...So it was like that. I didn't consider this at all. Last year, on the same day and the same time, that Kains-san died without being involved in this case..."
"Yeah. Most likely, this was the start of the plan."
I took a deep breath again, clearing my thoughts in my mind as I continued to say,
"...Yolko-san and Caynz-shi probably knew early on that this Kains who had a similar sounding name but different spelling died last year in April. At first, it was probably just random talk, but they probably realized later on that they could use this coincidence to fake Caynz-shi's death, and not in a normal death in battle against a monster...but a frightening method to enact an 'inside area murder'."
"...It's true that I was fooled just like you. The same time of death as someone else who had a similarly sounding name, destroying the inside area installation through continuous piercing damage, and a transfer crystal...with these three things, they could let the inside area PK look just like the real thing...and the aim for this doing is...."
Asuna whispered softly.
"To force the culprit of the 'ring incident' to appear and let him be suspected as the culprit. Yolko-san and Caynz-san acted this murder incident out to create a fake 'avenger', a death god that could ignore the Anti-Criminal code and carry out PK inside the area...and in the end, the one driven by this fear was..."
I nodded and used my fingers to touch my chin.
"He probably just doubted at the beginning...Schmitt went from the middle level «Golden Apple» guild, and managed to join the largest clearing guild, the «Divine Dragons Alliance». That would really be a unique situation. Without leveling up quickly or changing equipment quickly...it should be impossible."
"The conditions to join the DDA are already very strict...then, was he the culprit in this ring incident...? Did he kill Griselda and take the ring...?"
Asuna, who had seen Schmitt many times as an advisor in the clearing group strategic meetings, looked rather nervous and stared at me.
My mind immediately thought of the profile of that spear-user, and I shook my head slowly.
"...I can't tell. There's information to provide suspicion...but as to whether that guy has the presence of a «red»..."
The killers in SAO, called red players, would more or less have a strange presence around them, but this was to be expected. That is because those players who killed other players in this word are basically preventing this game from being cleared. To put it a little more drastically, red players are people who have the thinking that 'it doesn't matter whether we get out of here or not' —— or more radically, they hope for 'this death game to continue'.
Such a negative tone would definitely appear in terms of words. However, I couldn't detect any madness of a 'red' from Schmitt, who was thoroughly scared of the black-clothed death god and requested us to escort him back to his headquarters.
"...I can't tell, but he's definitely involved in that, and that can explain things thoroughly..."
On hearing me say that, Asuna nodded in agreement, leaning against the back of one of two chairs that were lined at the window. She seemed to forget looking at the bar opposite as she looked up into the sky above the streets.
"...No matter what, Schmitt is forced into a tight spot now. He believes that there's someone after him for revenge, and feels that the area...no, even the headquarters of the guild isn't safe. Then...what will he do next?"
"If there was an accomplice, he will probably contact that person. Yolko-san and Caynz-shi were probably waiting for that. But if Schmitt doesn't know where the accomplice is, un —— if it's me..."
What would I do? If I killed a player out of greed and hatred and felt absolutely remorseful about it, what would I do?
Up till now, I haven't taken the life of any player in this world, but there were friends of mine who died because of me, because of my foolishness and ugly ego that caused everyone in my guild other than me to die, and I had always regretted that. I used a tree that grew from the garden of a certain inn which we used as a home as their grave. It's not really considered asking for redemption, but I would often bring wine and flowers over. So, Schmitt probably——
"...If Griselda-san has a grave, he will definitely go there to beg for forgiveness."
Asuna seemed to detect the change in my tone as she looked up from the chair at me and smiled in a steady manner.
"That's right. I will do that, too. At the headquarters of the KoB, there are graves for the people who died in boss battles —— that's right, maybe, Yolko-san and Caynz-san will definitely be there...at Griselda-san's grave, waiting for Schmitt-san to appear..."
Silence came suddenly, and her expression became gloomy.
"...? What is it?"
"Uun...it's just that I thought of this. What if Griselda-san's grave is outside the area? If Schmitt-san goes there...will Yolko-san and Caynz-san forgive him just like that? I don't think it's actually possible, but maybe they might really carry out revenge...?"
This unexpected theory caused my back to tense up.
I can't say that it's impossible. Yolko and Caynz spent so much effort trying to act out the 'inside the area murders', so they should have some level of hatred to the culprit in the ring incident. They should have at least used up two teleport crystals. Considering their levels, this should be a rather large expense. They had gone through so much, so would they only be satisfied with getting a confession...?"
I shook my head after noticing something.
"No, they won't. Those two would definitely never kill Schmitt?"
"How can you deduce this?"
"You still have Yolko-san's name registered in your friend list, right, Asuna? You didn't see a message indicating that she had removed the friend registration at all, did you?"
"Ahh...speaking of which, that's true. I believed that it would have been removed automatically after the second murder incident in the inn, but if she's still alive, we should still be in contact with each other.
Asuna moved her left hand to summon the window, and after operating quickly, nodded back in affirmation.
"It is still registered. If I had realized this, we could have realized a trick going on with this case...but in that case, why did Yolko-san accept the friend request? We could have seen through the entire plan from here."
I closed my eyes, and this time, what was ingrained in my mind was a female profile with deep purple wavy hair.
"...It's atonement for lying to us and proof that she trusted us. Even if we noticed the record on the friend list and found out that she's still alive, we could deduce their true intent and not prevent them from baiting Schmitt. Asuna, try tracking Yolko-san's position."
I open my eyes as I said that. Asuna nodded and again hit the window.
"...Right now, she's in the field on the 19th floor, a hill slightly away from the main streets...what's over there is..."
"The grave of the Golden Apple leader, Griselda. Caynz and Schmitt should be there, too. If Schmitt dies there, we can tell that they killed him, so they probably won't do so."
"The...then what about the other way around? Will Schmitt kill both of them to shut them up after finding out his role in the ring incident...?"
Asuna asked in a worried manner. I pondered for a while and still shook my head.
"No...we'll find that out, too. Besides, that person can't accept being a criminal, no, a killer, and get released by the clearing group, so I guess we don't have to worry about them killing each other...just leave it to them. Our role in this incident is over. We were had by Yolko-san this time, but...I don't hate them for this."
On hearing this, Asuna pondered for a while, and then gave me an affirmative smile.
However, Asuna and I didn't even see half the truth in this incident.
This incident still wasn't over yet.